Laying It On the Line: Tree-Sitters Persevere Along Pipeline Route

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Tree-sitters continue to block clearcutting along the Mountain Valley Pipeline route in Virginia. Two tree-sitters, Red and Terry Minor, ended a 34-day tree sit on Sunday when a federal judge ordered them down, but other tree sitters have steadfastly remained—even as the U.S. Forest Service and federal authorities block the delivery of food to the tree-sitters.

Among the remaining tree-sitters is Nutty, who has been hunkered in a monopod—a free-standing perch atop a tall pole—for 40 days. Her monopod is blocking pipeline chainsaw crews and other personnel from reaching the summit of Peters Mountain, where the pipeline will cross under the Appalachian Trail.

The Forest Service is preventing any food or medical attention from reaching Nutty. They have instituted an emergency road closure that prohibits anyone from being within 125 feet of the road or monopod except authorities.

Dr. Paige Perriello, a pediatrician from Virginia, attempted to conduct a medical check on Nutty via megaphone on Sunday. “As we started to ask her some basic medical questions, the Forest Service moved the generator closer to the monopod to make it almost impossible for her to hear us. Why would anyone – particularly state authorities – go out of their way to block a doctor from talking to someone who is clearly at risk of dehydration, hunger, and physical harm?”

Residents across the political spectrum have supported the tree-sits and opposed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline, which are bulldozing private property through eminent domain and clearcutting public lands in Jefferson National Forest. The Mountain Valley Pipeline will also cross the Appalachian Trail. Already, pipeline personnel in motor vehicles are driving along the iconic footpath preparing for extensive drilling.

Meanwhile, local police carried semi-automatic weapons into the nearby support camp last Monday and dragged a supporter by the neck when an attempt was made to provide Nutty with food. Three arrests were made.

While a federal judge forced down two tree-sitters on Sunday, earlier in the week Monroe County Circuit Judge Robert Irons denied a request from pipeline officials for a preliminary injunction. Irons dismissed the company’s argument that there was a public interest in building a pipeline that would supply needed natural gas. “There is no showing that there is a national shortage of gas, an emergency requiring immediate need of delivery of gas … or some other factor causing irreparable harm.”

Instead, the judge ruled that the public’s interest was more closely aligned with the tree-sitters. The protesters “generally represent the interest of the public and the environment, such as the interest in protecting the waters underlying Peters Mountain, its flora and fauna, its viewshed, the Appalachian Trail, and similar interests that will or may be destroyed,” Irons wrote.

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